The Bristol is one of the first places I dined at when I started making frequent trips to Chicago many years ago. Happily it is still as good as it was back then and has a really excellent brunch. Just as the raviolo is a must-order at dinner, do not miss the cinnamon roll at brunch. It’s as dangerous as the Moscow mules.
Where else to start a whirlwind one day tour of some of my favorite places in Chicago than at Au Cheval? I know I have had burger blinders on for years and have largely ignored the rest of the menu venturing only as far as the raw vegetable salad. A huge thank you to our server who told us that the beef cheek marmalade could be ordered as a side dish. How I have lived without this I don’t know. Next time I may thrown caution to the wind and add it to my burger.
beef cheek marmalade and toast
cheeseburger with egg and bacon
Some travel days call for a double lunch, and not only a double lunch but going big with the large seafood tower. After visiting Swift & Sons a few weeks prior I was looking forward to checking out its more casual inner restaurant. Fantastic hospitality. How we ate this all I don’t know.
Chicago Athletic Association
For years before the Chicago Athletic Association opened as a hotel, I looked at the amazing facade from across Michigan Avenue on many of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s walking tours. I just love everything they have done to maintain the original details and character and can’t help but walk through whenever I pass it. Unfortunately the cocktails in the grand lobby were far from fantastic, but ambience almost made up for it.
Sidecar and Negroni
As anybody who reads this blog likely knows, Aviary is my favorite place in Chicago. Not only have I met many people here who have become incredible friends, but I am always blown away by something new on the menu. I am always nervous bringing somebody new here, afraid that they won’t like it as much as I do or I have talked it up too much. But when the person gets it and is as excited about the experience as I always am, these are the best visits of all. Many, many pictures missing somehow.
This was an absolutely frigid day which made the Next Alps menu the perfect dinner. A very fun menu separated into six sections – the French farmhouse, the German beer hall, the warming yurt, the top of the Swiss mountain, intro to Italy and Austrian sweets. While there wasn’t necessarily one stand out dish for me as there has been on previous menus, anytime you can have raclette is special and this is definitely a menu that I would happily repeat.
gratin of Beaufort and trumpet crozets
tourton of salsify and apple
gateau de St. Genix avec du beurre de chevre
pork belly schnitzel with cherry and black walnut
pretzel, sausages and pickles
Raclette with potatoes, fermented mustard greens, chestnuts, and black truffles
Augustiner Brau Edelstoff lager
chocolate with black truffle and milk crisp
preserved summer berries with cognac and honey
smoked arctic char with cauliflower and juniper
goulash of beef and Barolo with sour cornbread
bitter green salad with pomegranate and fennel ice
pie spiced ice cream
apple strudel with clove and cinnamon
And as if this wasn’t enough in one day, missing from the photos are cocktails at Grace as well as post dinner in the Office.
I will wait for my next trip to definitively say it but this may be my new favorite in Chicago. Exactly the type of food I could eat every day. So bright and crisp that even with sausage I did not feel guilty at all afterwards. And its always a good sign when its nearly impossible to make a decision about what to order because I wanted everything.
Swift & Sons
After looking at this building for years while waiting for a cab after leaving Aviary and then watching it defrost, I couldn’t wait to see what this building had been transformed into. An absolutely gorgeous (and quite huge) dining room. For as much as I love a great steak, I seem to rarely go to steakhouses as I am typically disappointed. My aged ny strip was fantastic, as were all of the vegetables as well as the shellfish platter (with the much appreciated heavy side of horseradish).
cold shellfish platter
broccolini, sauce gribiche
roasted mushrooms, porcini aioli, crouton
dry aged bone in strip
boston cream pie – vanilla bean cream, bittersweet chocolate, yellow sponge cake
black bottom pudding – black cocoa crumble, baked dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate pudding, white chocolate sorbet
On a day that felt more like the end of November instead of May I trekked to the new cava bar Bom Bolla in Wicker Park. With a group of friends I could see this as a fantastic sunday funday location. I definitely enjoyed the different cava’s that I tried but have to admit that after having such an amazing pork bocadillo the night before at Next, this one was a disappointment. On a different day I might have liked it more without the comparison. But definitely order the marcona almonds! I thought they couldn’t be improved upon, but everything truly is better fried!
The Chicago location of the Miami import Broken Shaker recently opened in the Freehand hostel. Having visited the Miami location fairly recently I was curious as to how the concept would translate without the cool outdoor space. I think they have done an excellent job however of maintaining the same vibe within the constraints of a city location. While walking in seems perhaps a bit too similar to the Ace next door, when you actually get to the bar it feels entirely different and far removed from your physical location. This will definitely enter my regular rotation for future visits.
Pickled vegetables are one of my absolute favorite things. If on any restaurant menu, it is guaranteed that I will order them. Case in point, I had an assortment of pickled vegetables the previous night at Parachute and would have the off-the-brunch-menu pickles at Au Cheval the next day. It doesn’t matter what vegetables are pickled but classic giardiniera is the best. So any restaurant that begins the meal with a bowl of this has already won me over. The shrimp scampi was perfectly done and sometimes it is just great to have a well executed classic. I can’t even think of the last time I have had it in a restaurant but now need to rethink how I have been making it at home. Looking back at my pictures I can’t believe I ate all of the enormous lamb t-bone, but I could never leave lamb unfinished! And what a better ending than my favorite cake, carrot cake? I didn’t necessarily think about it at the time, but one of the reasons that I enjoyed this meal so much was that it was perfectly composed of some of my all time favorite foods. Food aside, it was a pleasure to see some familiar faces. I unfortunately don’t remember my server’s name, but she did a very graceful job of dealing with the extremely difficult patrons sitting beside me. And while I love the cozy ambience of the dining room, I hope to return before the end of summer to take advantage of the patio!